Formerly part of the USSR until May 1990, when Latvia declared their independence, the country became a member of NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004. In 2014, it joined the euro zone, and just a couple of years later it became an OECD member. Due to a large Russian minority living in the country, Russian is spoken by almost one-third of Latvia´s population in addition to Latvian, which is the official language.
Latvia has a free market economy which has been quite stable - and it recovered remarkably fast after the 2008-2009 economic crisis. In the years 2014 and 2016, the country reported dips in the GDP growth rate in an otherwise quite stable economic growth pattern. Due to the country's geographical location, the service industry - which includes the transportation and the electronics industries - is the most developed one and accounts for roughly three quarters of the country’s economy. This sector also employs the majority of the labor force, with approximately 70 percent of working people. Latvia's most important export and import partner is Lithuania, with a share of 17.3 percent and 16.9 percent of the market, respectively.